A New Day part 1
What's In a Name?
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
September 7, 2008

Seven months ago, Shera and I had our first and as yet only child. Obviously, we knew that day was coming for several months before that. So we had plenty of time to discuss various names. And you know what? Choosing a name isn’t an easy thing to do.

So we talked about a whole lot of names. We talked about family names, and the names of friends… we talked about names that we immediately ruled out and names that we put on a list to consider for a while. We checked out websites with lists of names and their meanings… we borrowed books from friends with lists of names, just to help us get some ideas.

One book that I saw that I found particularly interesting was this one…

[Baby Names for Dummies]

I saw that while standing in the checkout at the grocery store. But I didn’t even pick that book up… I figured my baby wasn’t going to be no dummy.

Anyway, after looking at all these names and talking about the possibilities, we came up with a first name and middle name if it was a boy, and we had a first name picked out if it was a girl. Thankfully, it was a boy so we didn’t have to think about it any more.

So when our son was finally born we named him Nathaniel Gregory. Now, the Gregory is pretty obvious where it came from. That was Shera’s idea and I certainly wasn’t going to argue with that. I like that my son has my name as his middle name.

As for the Nathaniel, we were interested in a Biblical name. So we were checking out some Biblical names and their meanings, and we came across Nathaniel – which we liked the sound of, plus we liked the meaning. It means “gift of God.” And what really sold me on the name is when I read what Jesus said about the Biblical Nathaniel in John chapter one. This is very early in the ministry of Jesus and He’s just beginning to call people to be His followers… His disciples. One of the first to follower Jesus was Philip. And look what Philip did immediately…

John 1:45-47 (NLT)
Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.”
“Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
“Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied.
As they approached, Jesus said, “Now here is a genuine son of Israel—a man of complete integrity.”

I read that and I thought, “Wow, that’s perfect. That’s exactly what I want my son to be… a man of complete integrity.”

Names carry meaning. In some cultures, names are even changed to more accurately describe a person or to express something of significance.

This summer when Shera, Nate and I drove to Kansas, we met a cousin of Shera’s who had a pretty rough upbringing. His father was completely out of the picture, and his mother wasn’t much better. So essentially, his grandparents ended up raising him.

Well, his grandparents have  different last name than he does. But he identifies more with them than he does his own parents. So he is making plans to legally change his last name to theirs. He wants to honour what they did for him, and he wants it reflected in his name.

In the Bible, you see this happening frequently.

Abram’s name was changed to Abraham, which means “father of many.”
Jacob’s name was changed to Israel which means "he struggles" or “he who wrestles” because of the way he wrestled with God.
Simon’s name was changed to Peter, which means “rock” because of the confident strength and stability that God would instill in him.
The name “Jesus” means “the Lord Saves.”
Saul’s name was changed to Paul if for no other reason than to mark the difference between who he once was as the greatest opponent of the early Church to what he became as the greatest advocate of the Church.

Names are significant and they carry meaning. My name, Gregory, means “the watchful one.” And that’s pretty applicable, because I like to sit back and observe. And I like to think I’m pretty cautious, too… not reckless. I’m watchful.

You probably know what your own name means, too. Who wants to share?


You know what? Names aren’t just reserved for people. Business and organizations have names, too. Churches have names. Our church has a name… Sunrise.

And what I want to do this morning is fill you in on why we named the church that, and what it means for us today.

So let me start at the beginning. When Shera and I were first dreaming about beginning Sunrise, we put together a 24 page proposal and presented it to our District Superintendent. He took it to the District Board, we carried on a bit of  dialogue, and eventually we were given the green light to go ahead.

I want to go back to that proposal that we submitted, and I want to read for you just one paragraph about the name. Because the name Sunrise expresses the kind of Church I believe God was calling us to be, and is still calling us to be today.

“Sunrise Wesleyan Church sums up what I want the church to be - a new day in the life of people who have perhaps grown up in the church and become disillusioned by it, and a ray of light shining into the lives of those who have never experienced any kind of a relationship with Jesus Christ. I want it to be a place where the past is left in the past and the focus is from this moment on.”
(~ from the original proposal to begin Sunrise)

So drawing from that original vision that I believe was a God-given vision, we’re going to look this morning at

“Sunrise” Means…

A.    A new day in the life of those who have been disillusioned by the Church

Our city is full of people who have been disillusioned by the Church. They’ve been involved in the Church, perhaps they grew up in the Church, but somewhere along the line they had a bad church experience. Perhaps they were the victim of gossip. Perhaps a Christian they admired failed them. Perhaps something happened that hurt them deeply and turned them off of Christians and the Church and therefore God.

What turns people away from the Church?

There are many reasons someone may become turned off and disillusioned about the Church. We don’t have time to look at all of them so let me give you just two. The first would be…

•    Hypocritical Christians

I believe it was Gandhi who said that he had often thought of following Jesus, and possibly would have, had it not been for Christians. He had met enough of them that they turned him off. That’s the effect hypocrisy has.

1 Peter 2:1 (NLT)
So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech.

We started out this morning talking about names. Well, the name Christian means “little Christ.” So if you call yourself a Christian, is that accurate? Are you a faithful follower of Jesus? Do you strive to live as He would have you live? Are you becoming more and more Christlike? If not, then that’s hypocrisy.

There’s a story I heard in a sermon 22 years ago. Now, I don’t remember every sermon I ever hear. I don’t remember every sermon I ever preached. Sometimes if you asked me what I preached about last Sunday I’d be hard-pressed to come up with an answer. But this one story impacted me, and I remember it to this day.

It’s a story about Alexander the Great and a young soldier who abandoned his post during battle. This young soldier was later captured and brought before his commanding officer, Alexander the Great. Now the spectators in the court were familiar with the character of Alexander the Great. They knew him to be a man of courage and loyalty, a man who despised cowardice and betrayal. And knowing the character of Alexander the Great and knowing the crime of this young soldier, the spectators pitied him. They were sure this would be the end of this young soldier.

So the soldier was brought into the presence of Alexander the Great, and he stood there intimidated by Alexander’s glare. After a brief silence, Alexander the Great addressed the soldier by asking, “What is your name, soldier?”

“Alexander, sir,” came the reply. A breath of relieve flowed across the court. Perhaps, just perhaps, Alexander would show mercy toward this young soldier who shared his name.

Alexander the Great leaned forward in his chair and repeated, “What is your name soldier?”

The soldier, surprised to be asked this question again, answered, “Why, it’s Alexander, sir.”

Alexander the Great rose and stood before the soldier. Angered, he repeated, “What is your name, soldier?”

“Alexander, sir! It’s Alexander!”

At this, I can picture Alexander the Great with all of his strength and with all of his stature taking hold of the soldier and throwing him to the floor. And I can picture him towering over the soldier as he pointed his finger at the soldier and exclaimed, “Then change your conduct, or change your name!”

The name “Christian” means “Christ-follower”, or “little Christ.” And if that is the name you have chosen, you need to embrace the truth of Jesus Christ and reflect who He is, or you must change your name. Simple as that.

So if you and I are going to represent a new day for people who have been disillusioned, what does that mean for us? It means that we are going to live lives of authenticity. We’re going to be people of integrity. We’re going to be open and honest about who we are, and about what God has done for us. When we mess up, we’re going to fess up. And in all things, we’re going to act with humility and compassion and love. We’re not going to be the people who repel people away from Jesus, we’re going to be the people who point the way to Him.

•    Not being loved and accepted as they are

You know what? A lot of people are scared to walk into a church building. They think they’re going to be judged. They feel like they don’t measure up. And they’re afraid they’re going to be rejected. Maybe they even believe God could never love them. They just feel like they’re not good enough.

But one of the trademarks of Sunrise is that we welcome people with open arms. From what I’ve seen and heard, people have generally felt very loved and accepted here. And that’s fantastic. You are to be commended for that. Because that’s not true of every church.

Now, there are a lot of excellent churches. But there are also some that have earned the reputation for being judgmental. Who do look at every person who walks in to see if they’re worthy to be there.

Take a look at this…


You know what? That’s a common preconception of what churches are like. And unfortunately, in some cases that reputation in earned. But what’s it going to be like here?

Here at Sunrise, we’re going to look at people the way God looks at them. And how does God look at them? He sees each and every person as being precious in His sight. He places so much worth in us that He was willing to die for us. And no one, regardless of their lifestyle, ethnic background, gender or social status is beyond the love of God.

And He accepts everyone. That doesn’t mean that He condones everything, but He loves everyone. And He accepts everyone regardless of and weakness, frailty, or sinfulness.

Romans 5:8 (NLT)
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Underline the words “while we were still sinners”. Jesus loved us and accepted us and reached out with compassion to us… “while we were still sinners.” Wow, that’s pretty incredible, isn’t it?

Titus 3:4-5 (NLT)
“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.”

What did Jesus do when He was here? Who did He hang out with? Well, He went to parties and hung out with people who were about as far from God as you could get. And He loved them. He cared for them and welcomed them into relationship with them. Now, He never condoned sin, and He always called people to turn from their sinful practices and to live lives that honoured God. But it was always in the context of love and acceptance.

So when someone walks in here that doesn’t fit your perfect picture, how do you respond? Can you move beyond your biases and reach out to them with compassion? Can you get past your feelings of discomfort in order to express the love of God?

People who experience rejection instead of love and acceptance become disillusioned about who Jesus is. People who encounter hypocritical Christians are repelled away from God. But at Sunrise, we’re going to offer a brand new day… we’re going to offer hope and healing… for those who have previously been disillusioned by their bad church experience.

B.    A ray of hope shining into the lives of those who have never encountered Jesus before

Jesus Christ is the hope of the world. And He has chosen to entrust that message of hope to you and to me… to His Church. So our constant pursuit is to spread this message of hope… to shine this ray of light… into the lives of those who are far from God.

Because it’s a message everyone needs to hear, and an opportunity every person needs to experience. I believe wholeheartedly that there’s nothing greater that can happen to a person than entering in to a relationship with Jesus. Nothing compares to experiencing the hope, the joy, the forgiveness, the life that He and He alone can provide. And nothing in all this world is a essential as knowing Him… for this life and beyond.

Philippians 3:8-9 (NLT)
Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him.

But the truth is, a lot of people have never even tried Church and have never even investigated the claims of Jesus because it’s all so foreign to them. Attending a church service is like a cross-cultural experience for them, and they’re intimidated by that. And they don’t understand it. And they don’t see the relevance to their lives. They see the Church and therefore God as being boring and completely meaningless to their lives.

You know what? We want Sunrise to be for them. We want Sunrise to be a church that people who aren’t into church like to attend. If you’re not into religion, that’s okay because neither are we. Actually, Paul warned us about people who were religious but not godly…

2 Timothy 3:5 (NLT)
They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

I was talking to a man a while back who asked me if I thought there was too much religion in the world today. I thought about it, and had to say “yes”. There is too much religion. There are too many people so wrapped up in rituals and traditions that they miss the whole point. And the point is that it’s not about religion. But if it’s not about religion, what is it about? It’s about a relationship. That’s what the Christian faith is about.

It’s interesting to me that people get wrapped up in being religious because they think that’s what God wants. But the truth is those are the very people that Jesus had the most trouble with.

You know the difference between religion and real Christianity?

Religion is about fitting into a mold and following a list of dos and don’ts;
Christianity is about freedom and becoming the person God intended you to be.

Religion is about sitting back and observing;
Christianity is about participating as part of the Body of Christ.

Religion focuses on events;
Christianity focuses on community.

Religion pushes a code of conduct;
Christianity pursues the person of Jesus Christ.

Religion is about restrictions and regulations;
Christianity is about experiencing the full life God offers.

Religion is concerned about appearances;
Christianity is concerned about reality.

Religion is about judging people;
Christianity is about showing compassion and grace.

Religion is about guilt and punishment;
Christianity is about forgiveness and hope.

Religion is about constructing buildings, raising money, and increasing attendance;
Christianity is about transforming lives.

And that’s what we want to do here at Sunrise. We want to see lives transformed. We want to see people pursuing Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:20 (NLT)
So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us.

On the cover of your Sunrise Update this morning, you see the words “Real People, Real Issues, Real Life.” That’s what we deal with here. We don’t talk about faith in God as being something abstract that you just have to accept… we talk about faith in God as being real, being practical, and making a difference in your life every day.

So Sunrise means a new day for those who have had a bad church experience and been disillusioned by the Church.

Sunrise means a ray of hope shining into the lives of those who have never experienced God before.

And Sunrise is for a third group of people, too. Sunrise means…

C.    A fresh start for those who have been in bondage to their past

What does a sunrise indicate? It signals the start of a new day, doesn’t it? It represents new life and new beginnings and a fresh start. And there’s no shortage of people who need to experience that.

We’re surrounded by people who have been hurt badly and are in bondage to something that happened in their past. Maybe that even describes you.

There are people that you probably know who have been through the pain of divorce, who have been misused and abused, who have been treated poorly at work, who have had close friends betray them, who have suffered great loss. There are people who have been caught up in a cycle of sin for years and years and years. There are people who have regrets and failures that they just can’t seem to get past. There are people who are ashamed of who they used to be… of the things they’ve done… of the things they’ve said… and they need to be set free from their past.

We’re here for them. We are here to offer a fresh start for those who up to now have been in bondage to their past.

You may be familiar with the story of the woman who was caught in the act of adultery and brought before Jesus.

I once heard a preacher refer to this story and he introduced it by saying, “Think of the woman caught in adultery with me.” Talk about a misplaced modifier. I thought he was confessing something to us.

So think with me about the woman caught in adultery. A crowd of people brought this woman before Jesus and asked Him how she should be treated. The law was that she should be stoned to death. Would Jesus stick to the law or not. Anyone remember His response?

“Let him without sin cast the first stone.”

And then Jesus knelt down and started scribbling in the sand, giving the people time to process what He had said. One by the crowd of people who were there began to drop their rocks on the ground and walk away. Until finally, it was just Jesus and the woman left. Look at what happened next…

John 8:10-11 (NLT)
Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

This was a woman who was caught in a life of sin. According to the law, the punishment for adultery was death. But what Jesus do? He offered her forgiveness, and mercy, and a fresh start. And that’s what He offers to everyone living in bondage to their past.

Matthew 11:28-29 (NLT)
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

At Sunrise, we need to be about the business of helping people discover this fresh start that Jesus offers.

Galatians 5:1 (NIV)
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

We call this church Sunrise. That means a new day, a ray of hope, and a fresh start. That’s what God has entrusted to us to offer.

Now, just as I finish up, let me remind you about our Dreams and Dessert night next week. Because we’re going to be talking there about a renewed focus for us as a church. We’re going to reveal a new mission and strategy for us to be the Church God has called us to be. So you do not want to miss our Dreams & Dessert night next week.

Let’s pray.



Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2008 SunriseOnline.ca